There are too many intelligent, talented people riding around without any lights, like total idiots (a.k.a. "darkwads"). To help change this, I've been running a workshop called GlowHacker, which puts TRON-worthy light strips on your awesome bike.

They're durable! These bad boys stand up to a lot of smashing, as well as rain, mud, heat, and even playa dust.

They're cheap! The basic workshop doesn't teach anything too fancy, but is still hella fun and gives a great effect!

They're versatile! Each participant so far has created a different look, even with just a few LEDs. These become a visual signature as you explore the city at night. And they can be applied to bikes, skateboards (check out my Glowmobile up there), wheelchairs, Segways...

They're pretty theft-proof. I won't lie: one person has had his ripped off, literally. Which is incomprehensible, as they have basically no retail value and are glued to the bike frame. But this is much less of a worry than with detachable lights, and much cheaper than heavy-duty antitheft lights.

They're PRETTY! I mean, just... yeah.


Thanks to Snail and Vivian, of Double Union, for playtesting this!

Step 1: Bill o' Materials

The typical workshop covers a taillight or handlebar set, and this Instructable will specifically talk about taillights (though you can easily adapt it).

Shared materials

  • Hot glue gun and appropriately-sized glue sticks
    • Hot glue is the best adhesive I've found for this. It sticks to bike varnish better than epoxy does, and if you need to make a repair, it's relatively easy to peel off. Epoxy is a nightmare!
  • Zip ties (various colors) (long ones!)
  • Heat shrink tubing (various colors)
  • Torch or heat gun for heat-shrink
  • Solder wire
  • Sharpie

Per person

  • Soldering iron
  • Wire strippers and side cutters
  • 5 feet of solid-core dual wire: Solid-core wire is more rigid, which helps it stay in place and bend less on the bike, giving it more durability. You can get speaker or motor cable, which is 2 cables stuck together, usually with one demarcated as ground.
  • 3 strips of 5050 RGB LEDs with epoxy coating (a.k.a. fitty-fitties): two 5-section strips and one 2-section strip.
    • The LED strips are divided up into sections of 3 LEDs each, with copper pads separating the sections.
    • Each section is 2", or 5cm, long.
  • 1 x 9V battery
    • The LEDs are designed to run on 12V. However, they shine mighty bright on a fresh 9V. If you want full-white lights, though, you'll need to use 8 AA batteries or a lantern battery.
  • 1 x 9V connector (or holder for another type of battery)
  • 2 x toggle switches (one multi-pole for power, one for colors)
    • Double-pole, single-throw should suffice for power. For any section that switches between colors, you'll want a single-pole, double-throw switch.

The materials are intentionally generic, and can be obtained from Amazon, Radio Shack, and/or local electronics or art stores.

<p>Very nice 'ible! I was wondering, would it be possible to use a battery pack (such as those that recharge phones/tablets) instead of 9volt batteries? I usually carry one of those on me all the time. Those things are listed to switch between 1A and 2.1A charge. I'm not really sure if that will be able to power the lights, and I don't really understand electricity that well, but I'm learning looking through instructables. Thank you for all the explanations at the end. It's super helpful for newbies like me.</p>
<p>That's an EXCELLENT point! I would love to throw some rechargeables on a bike. So far, I've used 9Vs as the simplest route, but it would certainly be cheaper and more environmentally friendly in the long run. 1A will power the lights; 9V and up should give you good brightness.<br>Less voltage will give you dimmer lights and, accordingly, a smaller color range. Use a lower current rating, and you may burn out your power source.<br><br>Some have suggested powering these via a bike-mounted dynamo, charged by the wheel. I haven't tried that personally, but would guess that most commercially-available ones could not power these lights, which take substantially more energy than your standard bike torch or backlight.</p>
<p>Fantastic job with this 'ible! Suddenly feeling inspired to get my 5050's on my bike!</p><p>Thought this note near the end of your ible was particularly handy... &quot;I ride every day, perhaps an hour a day on average, and mine will go for at least a month on a fresh 9V&quot;</p>
<p>Thank you! That's useful to know. :)<br><br>GO FOR IT and share your results! There are so many interesting designs you can make with simple colored strips. I put a couple of rings around the front post on my bike, too, and I really like how they looked.</p>
Very nice work! Small suggestion: maybe you can use adhesive velcro instead of hot glue?
Thanks! That's a great idea if you're planning to make a lot of modifications. Personally, I prefer glue, as it's easier to keep clean and keeps a lower profile.
<p>The picture looks great! I haven't done much looking around but using LED strip on a bike is a pretty cool and original idea. Usually I just see a few LEDs. Good job! </p>

About This Instructable




Bio: Former Artist in Residence at Instructables, currently Hacker Advocate at Hackster. Cofounder of ProtoTank, a hardware prototyping startup. FIRST kid (rock on, team 677!). Former ... More »
More by alexglow:
Add instructable to: